From Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
The Catholic Diocese of Jalingo has held special prayer and awakening sessions in the most crisis-prone areas of Taraba State to pray for peace and to urge people to lead lives worthy of their calling as Christians.
The Catholic Bishop of the Diocese Bishop Charles Hammawa, interacting with reporters, said the prayers have the dual purpose of crying out to God for peace and speaking to people to make them see reasons to live together as just one.
The bishop noted that “the crisis in the state, especially in the southern part of Taraba and Gembu which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people and destruction of property, is unnecessary.
“As the Church and the body of Christ, it is our duty to call on God for his intervention. But it’s just as important for us to talk to people. Wukari and Takum have been terribly affected by the crisis as has Gembu in the Sardauna local government area. And so we decided to organize these sessions in these three places to start, ”said the bishop.
“What we do is also use the prayer sessions to talk to people. It is not enough to give sermons during Sunday and weekday Masses. Bringing people together in this way gives us the opportunity to really talk to them and invite them to change their attitude.
“We must start to have more respect for the sanctity of life and give up any tendency to destroy life. As a Church, we are probably the most affected by this crisis. In addition to losing thousands of our members in these areas, so many of our parishes have been attacked, looted and destroyed. You know that one of my priests was also horribly murdered.
“As we speak, there is the looming food crisis because people have been displaced and have not been able to carry out their agricultural activities. As we speak, we still have pockets of attacks here and there, so people are even afraid to go to their farms. It is therefore a major issue. Our message is clear, if you are a Christian you must live up to this title. You must be an Ambassador for Peace at all times.
“This exercise is of course part of our work as missionaries and we will continue to do so at all costs. Yes, that puts some of my priests in the sights, but it is the sacrifice we are all ready to make as a Church. We must not give in. Angels do not come from heaven to fight. It is the people themselves who sit down, plan and execute these attacks and so we have to start talking to them seriously to change their mind. It is not enough to train safety in these places. What really matters is people’s attitudes and that’s what we hope to positively influence at the end of the day. ‘